The Common Good
July-August 1995

With All My Relations

by Aaron McCarroll Gallegos | July-August 1995

The Santanas offer the familiar...and the surprising.

Brothers is Carlos and Jorge Santana's first collaborative effort, bringing together the experience of Carlos' many albums with the Santana band and the passion of Jorge's early '70s success with the Latin-rock group Malo. Brothers, which also debuts the family's hard-rocking nephew Carlos Hernandez, is as eclectic a recording as one might expect from a family gathering such as this. It gives voice to the many musical spirits that inspired the Santanas' previous music-from John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Django Reinhardt to Ali Akbar Khan, Jeff Beck, and Jimi Hendrix.

Carlos Santana's characteristic mestizaje of blues, Afro-Cuban bop, and American pop speaks a musical language that is as clear as the "talking drums" of the West African masters. I once saw him cry a reluctant member of an audience on to the stage simply through the persuasive voice of his guitar. His soulful and buoyant composition "Luz Amor y Vida" literally sings, exhorting us never to give up on love in our lives; it is as heartfelt and expressive a guitar voice as any artist in our time.

Yet the problem with having such a distinctive musical voice is that there aren't a lot of places it can hide. The inclusion of his similarly talented brother and their pyrotechnic nephew allows for an added range of diversity in this album that is a refreshing change of pace from other Santana productions.

Though longtime Santana listeners will recognize a familiar riff here and there, Brothers searches for a new direction somewhat deeper than recent Santana albums-dealing more with the dark, introspective spirit of our age than the other-worldly positive vibration with which Carlos Santana is associated. Although equally inspired, Brothers plays with the melancholy heaviness of being that each of us faces day by day. If previous Santana albums evoke the image of Mexican or Cuban beaches, this album images the foggy coasts of Carlos' home in Northern California, with its roiling sea, kelp beds, and murky pines.

CARLOS LETS HIS relations run with this album, and what comes out is as much their own unique expression as it is his. "Transmutation/Industrial" recalls Santana's early '70s explorations with John McLaughlin and Alice Coltrane, featuring Jorge's psychedelic wanderings on guitar and the driving rhythms of Carlos Santana's Elvin Jones-esque percussion efforts. Carlos Hernandez' compositions "Thoughts" and "Brujo" reflect more of the intensity of modern metal and indicate, perhaps, the future expressions of the Santana family.

Yet it is Carlos Santana's "En Aranjuez con tu Amor," an interpretation of Joaquin Rodigo's classical guitar composition, that breathes new life into this family by reconnecting it with the oft-forgotten Iberian musical roots that are part of their heritage. In a similar vein, "Contigo (With You)," written by Jorge and Carlos, is the most beautiful selection of the album, played with a tenderness of soul and warmth of heart that longtime lovers-and perhaps brothers-share.

Those who are looking for classic Santana pop formulas in Brothers may be disappointed, though the more patient listener will discover more richness of soul here than any tune that makes the Billboard Top 100. Carlos Santana describes his music as "from the heart for the heart," and Brothers is definitely pulsating with the rhythm of life.

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